BORAT! CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
directed by Larry Charles
THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED
directed by Kirby Dick
by Walter Chaw British Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, as his Kazakhstani journalist alter ego Borat, tells former Georgia senator Bob Barr that the cheese Barr's just eaten was made from his wife's breast milk, and he does it in such a way as to suggest the naïf savage stereotype's unaffected innocence as it preys on the secret bigot in us all. Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan plays on America's belief that the rest of the world is run and populated by ridiculous children alternately in need of careful guidance and firm scolding. The Borat character, then, is very much a creation of the shortsightedness of a condescending American intolerance, while his ability to infiltrate America's living rooms speaks to a complex national desire to fold the aliens it abhors to its breast in some sort of misplaced act of missionary grace. If we reduce the aim of evangelical Christianity down to the twin compulsions of damnation and salvation, what Borat really does is reveal the hypocrisy at the root of our professed acceptance and, more troublingly, highlight how divorced we are from the guiding principles of this sea to shining sea. In a film that does this much to expose the ugly undercurrent of homophobia, racism, and xenophobia in this country, it's no great surprise when New York subway riders threaten to kill Borat for kissing them on the lips in exuberantly misguided greeting--and the reactions of these Big Apple commuters strike me as refreshingly honest.